(Host) Brattleboro’s historic Latchis Theatre will get a new marquee. That’s something it’s done without since a passing truck destroyed the old one last summer.
As VPR’s Susan Keese reports, the replacement will be modeled on an older, 1938 version.
(Keese) It’s been a rough year in Brattleboro. A busy retail block was taken out by the Brooks House Fire. The August flood temporarily closed the Latchis theatre and hotel.
In the middle of that, in July, the theatre lost its marquee.
Gail Nunziata is managing director of the Brattleboro Arts Initiative, which acquired the Latchis in 2003.
She was at her desk upstairs when it happened. She heard a crash.
(Nunziata) "And then this tinkling of like broken everything/. And I could see from my office window that people on Main Street were reacting to something."
(Keese) A truck that was stuck in traffic had driven up on the side walk. Nunziata says it sheared the sign right off.
The marquee was insured. And then a grant came in through Senator Bernie Sanders office. Nunziata says the group saw it as a chance to bring a touch of glamour to the old Art Deco theatre.
(Nunziata) "And what we are going to do is restore some neon letters that had been in one of our historic photos. They had some neon letters that spelled out Latchis. And so we’re going to put those back on."
(Keese) The group has hired an Ohio company, Wagner Electric Sign. The company specializes in restoring old theatre marquees, and will begin work on the Latchis sign this spring.
Mark Wagner, part of the third generation to run the company, says the neon letters are hand-shaped by glass blowers in his factory.
(Wagner) " These projects become a labor of love for us and we enjoy going to each theatre and learning its story. Because every theatre has a story."
(Keese) Jim Latchis has been part of the Latchis story for most of his 80 years. His father and uncles built the complex as a tribute to their father, a Greek immigrant who brought his family to this country.
Latchis spent hundreds of hours on a ladder changing the letters on the old marquee.
He takes responsibility for removing the old neon letters, which kept shorting out he says. Over the years, he also shortened the sign.
(Latchis) " That sign has been hit so many times I can’t even remember all the situations. The letters used to be on the front as well… but I removed that whole section…and knocked about almost a foot off from the way it jutted out into the street. "
(Keese) Latchis once suggested filling a baby carriage with cement and parking it in front to keep trucks off the sidewalk. But he says the town has now put up a pole, which he hopes will have a similar effect.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese